A coalition of environmental groups is asking the Pennsylvania governor to revoke a permit for an underground injection well in Plum, Allegheny County.
The Sedat well for fracking wastewater was approved by the Department of Environmental Protection in April 2020 after a long battle with the borough and the DEP to obtain the necessary approvals.
Penneco Environmental Solutions LLC, a Pittsburgh-based oil and gas wastewater disposal service, plans to convert a nonproducing gas well into a Class II injection well, where contaminated wastewater from hydraulic fracturing operations that can no longer be reused is injected deep underground into reservoirs. The fluid contains brines, contaminants, and carcinogens.
The letter from the group that includes the Breathe Project, Citizens4Plum, Protect PT, and 46 others, states that the “well site would present devastating risks to several downstream Allegheny River public drinking water systems, including the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, which provides water to hundreds of thousands of City of Pittsburgh residents and businesses.” It cited scientific evidence suggesting numerous pathways for pollution.
The letter cites a 2016 U.S. Geological Survey study that found fracking wastewater in surface waters and sediments near an underground injection well in West Virginia, which it said demonstrates that it can migrate out of the well and into groundwater and surface water.
“The planned injection of toxic wastewater is scheduled to occur only about 1000 feet below the groundwater aquifer,” the letter states. “The small distance presents a high probability of upward migration of fracking waste through defects in the well’s 30-year-old casing.”
The letter also raises concerns about seismic activity in the area near the well. After investigation, DEP determined that though Penneco must monitor water quality and seismic activity, the well would not be deep enough to trigger the seismic shocks seen in other injection wells across the country. In addition, the letter asks for a comprehensive investigation into naturally occurring radioactive material, including radium and uranium, that is brought to the surface from deep underground during fracking and whether its presence in fracking waste could be linked to childhood cancers.
DEP spokeswoman Lauren Fraley said in an email that “the governor’s office committed to review the letter sent by environmental groups. However, the governor does not have the authority to himself revoke or suspend permits. Ensuring that permitted projects meet all statutory and regulatory requirements is the responsibility of DEP and the department will review the details of this well.”
She also noted that the permit “includes special conditions for monitoring, mitigation, reporting, and seismic monitoring; mechanical integrity; and for Penneco to obtain a permit to change the use of the nearby Sedat #1 well into a monitoring well before the #3A well could be used for disposal.”